Ian Wilson's blog

Welcome to the blog of Ian Wilson, author of the award-winning books on 1950s Canadian steam railway operations.

Bound for Chatham in late October

July 26, 2016

In one of the dozens of books which I've read to my son Spencer, I came across something an old man said to his young son: "When you get to be my age, you spend a lot of time looking back." Well, at two score and five (as of when I originally composed this, on February 21, 2006), I'm not altogether ancient, but I've covered an awful lot of ground in short order with the books I've written. Working ahead in the far reaches of Northern Ontario, on the division point at Capreol this week, occasionally my mind drifts back over hundreds of miles and several years to some of the quaint Southern Ontario branchlines I've explored and shared with readers.

Naturally, being a modeler and a bit of a dreamer, I imagine scenarios of recapturing favourite territory in miniature. That is a funny term, "favourite", for as I've said before, there is simply no CNR steam-era territory which is not interesting. But here's one I'd like to share with you today, for it's been in the back of my mind all day.

This is for the modeler who would enjoy recreating the late autumn scene--when the leaves are almost all gone and the skeletons of tree trunks are showing--on a simple branchline. He or she would also have an affection for open top cars of all types. You would only need one or two small steam locomotives. Consider the seasonal sugar beet traffic on one of the Southwestern Ontario branchlines out of London or Stratford.

The above image appears in Steam Through London. If you were lucky enough to get a copy of that landmark work from its first printing, you will find it provides a fascinating description of sugar beet traffic in southern Ontario. Same goes for To Stratford Under Steam, another work currently out of print. If the clamour for a second printing of those volumes gets much louder, I may have to contact my printer for a quote...

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